NEWARK, N.J. – Ten people have been charged for their roles as members and associates of “UpTop,” a Paterson, New Jersey-based street gang involved in the distribution of drugs, including heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine base, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.
Corey Boyd, 23; Leo Edwards, 27; Kwame Ellis, 30; Sean Morgan, 21; and Brent Staton, 20; and Kassan Drakeford, 31; all of Paterson; and Stefan Cameron, 25, of Hackensack, New Jersey, are charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine base. Six of the defendants were arrested this morning and are scheduled to appear this afternoon by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk. Ellis remains at large.
Also charged in the same complaint, and already in state custody on other charges, are Devin Kyle, 21; Edwin Diaz, 19; and Anthony Herring, 38, all of Paterson. They will have their initial appearances on a date to be determined.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The defendants are all members and associates of the UpTop street gang, which operates primarily in the Fourth Ward of Paterson. Through numerous controlled purchases of drugs, consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages, physical surveillance, and the analysis of telephone records, the investigation uncovered evidence that from January 2020 through April 29, 2021, the defendants conspired to distribute heroin, fentanyl and cocaine base.
UpTop derived its name from its location; its turf is colloquially described as being “up the hill” in the Fourth Ward of Paterson. Members of UpTop sell heroin that is frequently mixed with fentanyl, a potent, synthetic opioid that is approximately 50 times stronger than heroin.
Members and associates of UpTop sometimes compete with each other for narcotics customers within the gang’s turf. However, the investigation has shown that UpTop members work together to ensure that outsiders are unable to distribute narcotics within the turf. Members and associates of UpTop work together to preserve and protect the power, territory, and reputation of the gang, and to hinder, obstruct, and prevent law enforcement officers from identifying their criminal activities, from apprehending offenders of the crimes, and from successfully prosecuting and punishing the offenders.
The count of conspiracy charged in the complaint carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a fine of at least $5 million, with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents and task force officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig B. Kailimai; special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson; officers of the Paterson Police Department, under the direction of Police Director Jerry Speziale and Police Chief Ibrahim M. Baycora; detectives of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Camelia Valdes; and the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, under the direction of Sheriff Richard H. Berdnik, with the investigation leading to the charges. She also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for their assistance with the case.
This case is being conducted under the auspices of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.
The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Francesca Liquori and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendall Randolph of the Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.